A half century and then some of the Jewish Review
By POLINA OLSEN, Contributing Editor
article created on: 2012-01-01T00:00:00
Portland 1959. Not the scene we know today. Not according to a 1957 survey taken by the Jewish Welfare Federation of Portland, now known as the Jewish Federation of Greater Portland. Out of a population of 570,000, they said, 7,892 were Jews. The majority lived in the Northeast and Southwest, almost half were self-employed, 68 percent belonged to a synagogue, and 46 percent were foreign-born.
A Jewish newspaper, the JWFP decided, is what the city needed. Since the 1940s, federations around the country sponsored them. Portland’s last publication, The Scribe, stopped printing in 1953. The first issue of the Portland Jewish Review ran Jan. 1, 1959.
Ben Padrow, a Portland State University speech professor, became the volunteer editor. He published the eight-page publication six times a year. “This paper will seek to reflect the crazy-quilt pattern of a bewildering and swiftly changing world—and still try to remain close to the Jewish Community which it serves,” he wrote in issue number one. “We shall function as a free newspaper—devoted to the conscience of the Jewish community and serving to unify all.”
The first issue reviewed “Only in America” by Harry Golden, provided a recipe for gefilte fish, and announced the [Jewish Community] Center Players performance of “The Crucible.” The two-column calendar offered adult education Hebrew classes along with synagogue, JWFP and social events. Judge Gus Solomon, the paper said, had formed a local branch of the American Jewish Congress with goals of removing Jewish quotas in colleges and enacting fair employment legislation.
Advertising started in 1960 with Kon Tiki, Portland’s most exotic restaurant. Air France service to Tel Aviv, Hymie Shore’s Kosher Meat Market, and Dave and Ralph Policar’s Puritan Fish Market became regulars along with Empire Chicken.
When Padrow resigned in 1961, the paper continued without an editor. It kept Portlanders up-to-date with a women’s division page, synagogue news and a column by high-school student Trudi York, among other features. National and international news supplied by the Jewish Telegraphic Agency and World News Service often filled half the paper’s eight pages. Stories focused on Israel—“UJA Campaign to help Rumanians Emigrate to Israel”—and anti-Semitism—“250,000 Moroccan Jews suffer hate drive.”
The 1967 Arab-Israeli War pushed everything aside. “As this issue of the Portland Jewish Review goes to press, the situation in the Middle East has reached a most critical stage,” JWFP President Hershal Tanzer wrote that June. “I fervently hope that by the time you read this letter, tensions will have relaxed and the outlook for peace improved.” The next issue, headlines blared “Portland Responds to Emergency—New Highs Reached in Giving.”
By today’s standards, some topics seem absent. Letters to the editor didn’t appear until 1968. During the 1960s, the South Auditorium Urban Renewal Project leveled 54 blocks of the Jewish immigrant section of town. The newspaper didn’t mention urban renewal. Once a boxed message announced: “Freeways Good or Bad, a free forum at the Jewish Community Center.” The Review’s Evolution
Editor La Nita Anderson joined the paper in 1968 and stayed 18 years. Circulation expanded from Portland to statewide, and the paper published monthly.
Stories reflected Portlander’s concern about Soviet Jews. The 1972 Soviet Jewry rally in Portland made headlines as did the September 1972 murder of the Israeli athletes during the Munich Olympics.
The Review featured local history. Shirley Nudelman, who grew up in South Portland, remembers writing a column, “We Could Stroll Down Memory Lane but They Built a Freeway Over It.” When the Jewish Community Center on Southwest 13th Avenue closed with plans for a new location on Southwest Capitol Highway, a multi-page story included photos of the Rambler Memorial Bus and 1926 Center Orchestra.
Lydia Lipman talked about her time on the Jewish Review Board: “Anderson wanted the paper to be academic and philosophical,” she said. “She wrote insightful articles about the rise of radical Islam. It was an early warning alert to what happened. Kudos to her.”
The Jewish Review also spoke to Louis Livingston who wrote book and movie reviews. “I had a good time—and La Nita wanted [reviews] as often as possible,” he said. “In one article, I compared ‘The Sorrow and the Pity’ with the 1978 TV mini-series ‘Holocaust.’”
When Livingston left for a European summer holiday, he packed his press credential. “I remember going to the Cannes Film Festival,” he said. “They said, ‘Come on, nobody’s heard of this newspaper,’ but they relented and let me in. I interviewed an Israeli producer and wrote a long column.”
Meanwhile, the paper’s evolution continued. In 1973, JWFP adopted guidelines. The Review, they said, was “a combination house organ and newspaper that bases stories on a good news peg and deals with facts not opinion.” A 1980 readership survey and other factors led to the 1984 headline: “34 Year Old Portland Jewish Review Begins New Era.” Review Committee Chair and former Editor Ben Padrow wrote: “The editorial policy of the new Jewish Review is contained within the masthead of the New York Times: to report the news impartially without fear or favor. The Oregon Jewish community may rely on this new community-owned Jewish Review to do two things: 1. To be a forum for the discussions of substantive ideas. 2. To be a catalyst for controversial ideas.”
Anderson’s article accompanied Padrow’s: “In the past few years we ran features mostly by freelance writers on marriage counseling, the single parent, adoptions, keeping kosher, Russian Jewish newness, death or terminal illness, Jewish education, Hillel Academy’s space problems, drug use and Oregon prisons.” She also noted stories on sin, religion, capital punishment, the arts and Israel/national news.
However, Anderson said: “What the Review has not had are enough letters to the editor to reflect the vitality of a community with strong opinions, nor articles written by those with differing points of view, particularly on local issues.”
Help was on the way for this perceived omission—some thought too much so. A Divided Jewish Agenda
In 1985, Anderson retired from the Jewish Review and moved to her family home in La Grande. Elaine Cogan, a columnist for the Oregonian and Oregon Journal, stepped up as interim editor.
“Not only will the Review be a communicator of news,” she wrote in her first issue. “It also will be a forum for diverse opinion and commentary.”
It started with a controversy that kept letters coming for years. When Chabad of Oregon wanted a Hanukkah menorah in Pioneer Square, some did not approve. One Review had two pages of response. The “No” view, signed by the American Jewish Committee, the federation’s Community Relations Committee, the Anti-Defamation League and Oregon Board of Rabbis stated: “We strongly oppose the grant of a permit for the placement of any religious symbols in Pioneer Courthouse Square. We believe that issuance of such a permit would constitute violation of the federal and state constitutional principles requiring separation of church and state.”
Supporters argued many cities display menorahs. Even President Jimmy Carter, they said, participated in the Washington, D.C., ceremony.
The next controversy drew attention outside the Jewish community. In March 1986, a founder of Jewish Americans for Middle East Understanding wrote a piece titled “Palestinian-Israeli Relations Is Concern of Local Group.” Here are some quotes: “I believe that Israeli Jews and Palestinian Arabs can live peacefully side by side…I’m interested in learning more about the Arab-Israeli conflict. We love this land [Israel] and believe in its future… a union in common service of the land must be within the range of the possible.”
Some agreed with the Portlander who responded in the next issue: “It is obvious that the Portland Jewish Review is totally under new editorship, and it no longer reflects the conservatism of this Jewish community…While it may well be stated that the paper should represent every facet of the community, this does not imply that those on the periphery should be given such strong recognition. … I would hope that the Portland Jewish Review will be open to opinion from all sides, but seek to at least indicate that it represents the majority who are not amongst these non-observant, bleary-eyed idealists.”
Controversy raged in subsequent letters to the editor. Even Willamette Week picked up the story in their June article “A Divided Jewish Agenda.” They noted that while Portland’s Jewish community was 10,000 strong, “small size by no means implies homogeneity.”
On the other hand, the paper reflected how readers united over the fate of Russian Jews, any serious threat to Israel, and racism. When Portland attorney Elden Rosenthal assisted Morris Dees in convicting white supremacist Tom Metzger for his role in the 1988 murder of Ethiopian immigrant Mulugeta Seraw, it generated front page news and a sense of collective pride. Paul Haist Joins the Review
Current editor and publisher Paul Haist joined the paper in 1992. A native Portlander, Portland State University graduate and former Oregonian, Oregon Journal and Seattle Post-Intelligencer editor, he’d spent the previous five years as a freelance writer and editor in Astoria. While the paper’s appearance and tone became more professional, its interest in diverse opinions remained.
Rabbi Joshua Stampfer’s article “Time Now for Compromise in the Middle East” produced a deluge of letters. He argued Israeli security overshadowed “profound concerns about Jewish survival in America.” To achieve peace, he wrote, “A compromise on the extent of land that Israel will continue to control in the West Bank and Gaza must be reached.”
Other articles and letters reflected the community’s opposition to Ballot Measure 9. Sponsored by the Oregon Citizens Alliance, the measure required government to discourage homosexuality.
One letter shows how times change and then change again. “Increasingly,” the author wrote, “Jewish groups [in Portland] begin community events before Shabbat or Yom Tov are over. At dinners, non-kosher food is served without an option of food prepared according to kashrut. Money is handled on the Sabbath. Tradition deserves equal rights, too.”
When Deborah Moon, who is now city editor, joined the Review that December, coming from a daily newspaper in Colorado, Haist thanked the Jewish Federation of Portland, as it was then known, for committing the resources to make the hiring possible. “Our goal is to produce the kind of paper that wins the support and admiration—and the friendship—of the community it serves,” he wrote.
That year, he clarified the paper’s editorial position: “One simple truth about the Jewish community or any community is that it is likely to be home to more than one opinion on any given topic. In Oregon and Southwest Washington [the Jewish Review] has become one of the key forums for the exchange of ideas among Jews.”
Since the arrival of Haist and Moon at the Jewish Review, the paper has been honored numerous times for editorial excellence including eight highly coveted Rockower Awards presented annually by the American Jewish Press Association—four for Haist, three for Moon and one for occasional columnist Robert Horenstein.
The paper and its writer/editors also has been honored several times in recent years by the Oregon Newspaper Publishers Association and the Society for Professional Journalists.
Jewish Review Editors
1959-1961: Ben Padrow
1967: Elizabeth Till
1968-1985: La Nita Anderson
1985-1987: Elaine Cogan
1987-1989: Marc Lowenthal
1989-1992: Mara Woloshin
1992 to present: Paul Haist
Jewish Newspapers Published in Portland
1893-1901: American Hebrew News
1903-1919: Jewish Tribune
1919-1953: The Scribe
1959-2012: Jewish Review
This story made possible by a grant from the Judith and Edwin Cohen Foundation.